Evolutionists Are Speechless About the Origin of Language
It’s perhaps the most obvious distinctive trait of humans. Where did language come from, with all its diversity?
Science indicates that babies’ brains are the best learning machines ever created.
Children come equipped with the hardware and software to pick up a language, even though it is not instinctive (otherwise, all children would speak the same language). A new study from the University of Washington Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), published on Medical Xpress, found that toddlers can even pick up two languages easily.
When exposed to a second language like English for just an hour a day by a caretaker speaking ‘parentese’ (the characteristic style of speaking parents use with their babies), the children readily gained “an average of 74 English words or phrases per child, per hour” compared to 13 words or phrases in the control group. Moreover, the children retained the ability to speak and understand these words 18 weeks later.
“Science indicates that babies’ brains are the best learning machines ever created, and that infants’ learning is time-sensitive. Their brains will never be better at learning a second language than they are between 0 and 3 years of age,” said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of I-LABS and a UW professor of speech and hearing sciences.
Does Evolution Explain Language Diversity?
At a recent workshop in Vanuatu in the South Pacific, Michael Gavin of the University of Colorado was struck by the diversity of indigenous languages spoken by participants. Some 16 distinct languages were spoken in a nation where villages with different tongues were sometimes within eyesight of one another. Writing in The Conversation, Gavin puzzled over this diversity concentrated in a small area, knowing it doesn’t translate equally around the globe. There may be 40 languages in the island nation just 100 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide. Why so many?
We could ask this same question of the entire globe. People don’t speak one universal language, or even a handful. Instead, today our species collectively speaks over 7,000 distinct languages.
And these languages are not spread randomly across the planet. For example, far more languages are found in tropical regions than in the temperate zones. The tropical island of New Guinea is home to over 900 languages. Russia, 20 times larger, has 105 indigenous languages. Even within the tropics, language diversity varies widely. For example, the 250,000 people who live on Vanuatu’s 80 islands speak 110 different languages, but in Bangladesh, a population 600 times greater speaks only 41 languages.
Gavin is not satisfied with the brainstormed hypotheses that try to explain these patterns of language diversity. Typically, they suppose that:
- The tribes have a different history.
- The tribes have different cultures.
- Mountains or oceans divided them for a long time.
- Tribes think, “We hated them, so we don’t talk to them.”
And yet experts don’t have any better explanations.
The questions also seem like they should be fundamental to many academic disciplines – linguistics, anthropology, human geography. But, starting in 2010, when our diverse team of researchers from six different disciplines and eight different countries began to review what was known, we were shocked that only a dozen previous studies had been done, including one we ourselves completed on language diversity in the Pacific.
Latitude might be correlated with language diversity, but it certainly did not create it.
This sounds like a setup for Gavin to crow about what his team found. But next, he says, “The results varied a lot from one study to another, and no clear patterns emerged.” He apparently includes his study in the failed lot. Gavin dismisses hypotheses that confuse correlation with causation, such as the notion you can fit more languages closer to the equator. “Just because a group of people crosses an imaginary latitudinal line on the map doesn’t mean they’ll automatically divide into two different populations speaking two different languages,” he quips. “Latitude might be correlated with language diversity, but it certainly did not create it.”
Modeling the Fallacy
And yet that’s just what Gavin’s team proceeded to do: confuse correlation with causation. He built a model based on assumptions about rainfall, population size and group size, and applied it to Australia before he knew how many aboriginal language groups exist. Surprise! The model very closely predicted the actual number! But what does this have to do with the price of tea in Mandarin Chinese? Nothing. A model about patterns of geographical distribution of languages says nothing about how they originated. Presumably, Australia could still speak one language even with all the model parameters intact. We could turn his own quip around: “A model might be correlated with language diversity, but it certainly did not create it.”
Gavin ends with an admission of expert ignorance about this question:
Language diversity has played a key role in shaping the interactions of human groups and the history of our species, and yet we know surprisingly little about the factors shaping this diversity. We hope other scientists will become as fascinated by the geography of language diversity as our research group is and join us in the search for understanding why humans speak so many languages.
Evolutionists will be sure to deliver via perennial subscriptions to Futureware.
Update 7/24/17: A researcher at the University of Portsmouth is speculating, “Physics of bubbles could explain language patterns.” What? Language patterns follow a law of physics? No intelligence allowed? Dr James Burridge’s idea “is driven by a long-held interest in spatial patterns and the idea that humans and animal behaviour can evolve predictably,” Science Daily says. Now we’re speechless.
A common evolutionary tactic of pulling the wool over people’s eyes is called Red Herring, a version of Sidestepping. These are forms of distraction. They ignore the big question towering over them and draw the public’s attention to some little question they are working on, in order to look busy so as to deserve more funding. Origin-of-life scientists do this by looking for some particular set of “building blocks of life” but ignoring the necessity of a blueprint for the building. Evolutionary paleontologists do this by finding some particular fossil that “might” be an ancestor, ignoring the complexity of the animal it represents. Darwinian geneticists perform divination on genes to concoct phylogenetic trees, distracting attention away from the origin of complex specified information in the genes. Here, Gavin is all concerned about patterns of language diversity, while the big questions are screaming, Where did language come from? Why is it unique to humans? And why are there so many diverse languages, given that the human mind is capable of learning any one of them at birth?
The Bible gives an answer that fits the data. Human beings—and humans alone—were created in the image of God, who is the Logos, the Word, the communicator. The Creator’s words have meaning. They are not just signals like bird calls or ape hoots. The first human pair had a God-given language from the beginning, with which they could communicate with their Maker. That was not lost after Adam and Eve sinned; we find God speaking to Cain, Noah, and Abraham. But when human population size grew after the Flood, they disobeyed the command to disperse and multiply, and instead wanted to form one idolatrous civilization in defiance of the one true God. Knowing it would lead to a totalitarian one-world government in rebellion, the Triune God (notice pronoun “Let Us“) mercifully confused their languages at Babel, forcing them to separate and form separate tribes. In a sin-cursed world, we can deduce this was an act of mercy, creating tension between nations that could offset the capacity for one-world government. Now in our time, however, advances in technology are making the threat of global governance a real and present danger. From the Babel experience, we can predict that another judgment is coming. Fortunately, the Bible has told us about it.
There has been differentiation of languages since Babel, clearly: look at how the Romance languages diversified after the Roman Empire. English is a hodge-podge of words borrowed from Angles, Saxons, Normans, French, Germans, Italians, Latin and other sources. But that doesn’t explain the origin of language. It’s analogous to how animals and plants have diversified within their created kinds, except in the case of language, human intelligence is involved making decisions about how to assign meanings to sounds and organize them with rules. That’s why we have grammar books and language teachers. Through-and-through, language is explained by intelligent design, not evolution. Notice how in the book of Acts, the sudden ability of disciples to speak foreign languages to gathered crowds in Jerusalem was a miraculous, God-given sign. It’s as if God can install “apps” with this ability into the brain’s operating system when He chooses.
The Creator knows all languages and dialects. He is not so concerned about one language over another as He is about the meaning of His message to mankind: “Repent and believe the good news” that Christ died and rose again to rescue sinners. In heaven, there will be people from all nations, tribes, languages and tongues, praising God with the same song of salvation. Until then, the task of Christ followers is to translate the Word of Christ to the far reaches of the globe so that speakers of all 7,000 languages can hear and respond not just to natural communication (design in nature and conscience), but to the special revelation of the gospel.